In the early 2000's I sat in my therapist's office lamenting my single status. Not that it was the first time. By then I had already passed my thirtieth birthday and done a lot of work on my personal issues. Had eagerly taken up yoga and meditation. Quit my job as an elementary school teacher and was slowly building a small business of my own. I had even completed the first draft of Surfacing.
I put a lot of hard work into everything I attempted. Studied stacks of yoga and anatomy books. Wrote for endless hours long after dark. Hit the pavement and found a half dozen venues in which I taught over one hundred people each week.
But my life always seemed empty somehow.
"Maybe I need to put myself out there more," I sighed to Jerry.
He shrugged. "Well you know just by walking through my door, that eliminates about sixty percent of the male population."
I frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Most of my clients are women. Men don't really want to get into their issues," he said, lifting his brow. "Or admit that they even have any."
"And then take into account that you're into yoga and spirituality," Jerry continued. "That eliminates about twenty-five percent more."
I shook my head sadly.
"And beyond that...you're more tuned into your intuition than anyone I've ever worked with," Jerry said. "And that makes me work harder as your therapist."
"So that eliminates another ten percent."
"Thanks for that," I replied sarcastically. "That means I'm left with...what? Five percent of the male population?"
"I'd say two percent," Jerry said. "Sorry, Katie, but it's not going to be easy to find a partner who really understands who you are and what you're about."
"Well, it only takes one ticket to win the lottery," I asserted.
"Yeah, but how often does that happen?"
I used to replay this discouraging conversation in my mind whenever I'd go to a wedding or celebrate a friend's new baby. When I'd sit on my front porch and watch couples, young, old, and everywhere in-between, amble by on their evening stroll. While working in the gardens at Esalen, thinking that I'd be more likely to find a five-percent man in California than Ohio.
Over time I let go of needing to be a part of a couple and focused on the best parts of being single. I learned to let go of the idealized image I once had of marriage, even though every novel I've written involves women in a variety of relationships. Some healthy. Others not so much.
I watched ninety-five percent of my friends get married. Watched a good chunk of those have babies, all the while chipping away at the lingering depression that had settled in the recesses of my heart. A secret loneliness that slipped through the cracks and revealed itself in the most surprising ways:
When I signed a contract with my literary agency, a friend had a small and truly wonderful celebration. But at the end of the day, I came home alone.
On the evening I uploaded my first book, I called my editor and friend, Joyce, to share the experience. But after we hung up, the house was silent and there was no one here to witness an accomplishment that had been fifteen years in the making.
And when I come inside after a long day in the garden, there's only me here to throw together a meal and enjoy the fruits of my labor.
But what a joy to realize that I no longer want a partner to complete me or to make me whole. To fill in the blanks or carry some of my burdens. To even cut the grass or go to the grocery store. I can do all of that myself.
What I want now is something very different from what I had wanted all those years ago. It's shifted from shadow into light and while I can't quite articulate it yet, I'm beginning to recognize the space I've created for something different.
A few years ago, an acquaintance asked me, "Will I judge you when I read your novel?"
"If you think I'm the character telling the story, you might," I replied. "But that's up to you."
I find it interesting that after having written four novels, it was a memoir that I first published. A reflection of parts of who I am, and while I didn't tell the whole story, the essence of where I've been and how I feel are right there, front and center. Readers may judge me. Judge my writing style. Judge the choices I've made. I can't control or manipulate that. Nor do I want to.
I'm putting into practice what I preach to my yoga students -- letting go of the criticism I sometimes heap on myself, particularly when it comes to my choices about relationships. About being single. About the projections and images I used to have that have proven to provide the same disappointing experience again and again and again.
I'm not that girl who once sat on Jerry's couch complaining about being alone. I'm not lost or desperate anymore. No longer toiling by the sea in Big Sur, waiting for a soulmate to reveal himself. I'm no longer wishing and hoping and praying for something new to come along.
And best of all, I'm not Allyson or Grace or Annie or even Brynn, the characters who reveal their stories in my novels. I thought I might have been, but I'm not. A few were vehicles through stories I thought I might embody someday.
But not now. Not today.
Springtime reveals for each of us lessons of death and rebirth. Every year I contemplate what needs clearing in my consciousness. In my mind. In my spirit. Perhaps this year it's time to realize I no longer have to identify with Allyson playing on the beach with her brother at the end of Surfacing. I'm no longer shifting back and forth between wanting one thing and living within another reality.
I'm not that girl, either.
And who I'm becoming now is someone mysterious indeed.